Our inside-out music industry outsider is attempting to see 365 live acts this year. This is a man whose first ever gig was in 1982 watching The Higsons and The Farmer’s Boys at the Lyceum. This may end very, very badly. This is the Pandaman‘s diary…
Behind the seemingly relentless loop of Blue Mondays and Grey Tuesdays the New Year is actually the season to be very jolly for lovers of new bands, because the gig listings bulge with tastemakering blogs and labels and DJs throwing forth their hot tips and cool cats for the year ahead. Covid, alas, dealt some of those brave tastemakerers a thousand corona lashes and some key small venues saw their listings decimated by sickness and cancellations as January unfolded.
Luckily, we’re usually one of the first out of the January promoting blocks with our Pandamonium! event at the Dalston Victoria, which started on the 6th. We had to weather a few storms ourselves over Christmas as poorly bands were replaced, and then the replacements promptly got sick and pulled out. We still managed to squeeze out 15 acts across five nights though, so not all was lost. There were some great performances as well, with special props to GARDENING, who blend the spikiness of Television with the skills of Teenage Fanclub and never knowingly end a song early when they can add another three sensational codas to the mix.
Home Counties troubadour ENJOYABLE LISTENS is no less carefree with the melodies: a lithe, louche, lively mix of Jarvis Cocker and Rick Astley, his is a sound which is part dapper, part danger, and several chunks pure pithy humour. He’s living in the ’80s, for sure, but it seems like a charmingly ace place to be. Another Pandamonium! highlight harking back to ye olden dayes is FACELIFT, a multi-tiered Kentish six-piece who build a big groovy wall of intelligent sound with the help of some wise saxophone and who have at least three songs which are 1000 per cent punk funk and therefore sound unerringly like those there Higsons from 40 years ago. Great.
When we’re not lying beneath the bar at our own gigs we put our faith in other trusted allies on the promotions front. One of those is Permanent Creeps, who have taken over the diary at the wonderfully intimate Jaguarshoes in Old Street. There were two great back-to-back nights in the middle of the month, the first headlined by the tremendously fun all-grrrrrl punkisms of THE LAMBRINI GIRLS, who spent chunks of their set in the crowd rather than onstage, which was fine because Jaguarshoes doesn’t actually have a stage, per se.
Hangovers still hanging around the following evening, an even more packed Jaguarshoes piled on the post-punk pounds whilst glaring at headliners WORKFRIENDS, who peddle a hectic, hectoring patchwork quilt of quirks and jerks with a tambourine man excelling in wraparound shades. FFO Squid, Sportsteam and jerks and quirks, as they say in the trade. WORKFRIENDS had to work for their applause as well, as support act FLAT PARTY are causing quite the stir, having only first played live last August. It’s all in the name with this lot, creating a merry, ragged racket to soundtrack idiotic dancing in the kitchen and fag butts crawling in the spider plants. Plus, in singer Jack they have a front man who fronts up like Damon Albarn when Blur first appeared, all indie cheek and don’t-let-him-near-your-partner charm.
Another promoter we pay a touch TOO much attention to is End Of The Trail. Their monthly night at the Good Mixer in Camden rounded off the first month of madness and had the misfortune to coincide with the death of Andy Ross, co-founder of Food Records, after an illness. In the Britpop wars the Food flag fluttered bravely on Greenland Street, just up the road, and the Good Mixer was smack bang in the middle of Andy’s well-mannered A&R manor.
We raised a glass or two to his spirit while watching teen metallers WARNING SIGNAL: at their poppiest the deadpan trio threaten to swerve into the chuggy ’80s vapour trails of The Primitives and Transvision Vamp, but singer Eva seems just as happy to be shredding as she is heading down any commercial route. Early days, but the Warning Signal signs are good. As if that wasn’t enough fun for one night, the alarmingly-named HOT PUDS bring some suitably meaty musical moments to the Good Mixer mix. A four-piece switching instruments with casual aplomb, their ethos is to deliver their songs in under two minutes, and they fairly crack on with a barrage of twisted harmonies and whirling guitars, like Weezer and that there Teenage Fanclub racing to reach the last power chord.
During a post-gig chat with Hot Puds they look very puzzled and reveal that no, they’ve never heard of our Fierce Panda Records. Andy Ross would be proud.
Pandaman’s January Band Total: 30
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